"The slow grace of time, the joy and the fears, oh, how they shine like diamonds and tears."
I promised eye candy and eye candy there shall be. Finally, the mini glass mushrooms I made after seeing ceramic ones at Cornelius nursery.
And the mushroom man who took them to work, because as he said, that's the kind of plant you have in a cubicle.
I'm still making lots of long tapered tube beads, mostly laden with silver glass shards and encased in clear, with a soupçon of glittery goldstone and sparkly dichro. Because after all, I am the original bling girl and I wear that honor proudly.
So it's not very surprising that I was drawn to visit Austin Thin Films last Tuesday. ATF makes DichroMagic® which is dichroic coated art glass. Dichroic glass contains multiple micro-layers of metals or oxides which give the glass certain characteristic optical properties, including a shimmery finish with colors that shift depending on the angle of view.
Dichroic glass was developed, surprisingly, by space exploration research into thin-film filters for use as very accurate color filters.
Multiple ultra-thin layers of different metals and metal oxides - gold, silver, titanium, chromium, aluminium, zirconium or magnesium - are vaporised by an electron beam in a vacuum chamber. The vapor then condenses on the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure. The finished glass can have as many as 50 layers of these materials, yet the thickness of the total coating is approximately 30 millionths of an inch.
Austin Thin Films is located on the outskirts of Austin in an industrial park and sells primarily through distributors and online. There is no storefront but I'd been told if you call in advance they will let you drop in, providing you have a resale license, and sell to you at wholesale prices. Better yet, they have scrap bins of items that are discounted further.
Neil had a business meeting in Austin, so I tagged along. On Monday night we had dinner with my daughter and her boyfriend. On Tuesday I grabbed one of my lampworking friends who lives in Austin and we headed out to ATF. There were two guys working and they were very nice, but they did say we lucked out that it was a convenient day for us to come.
Honesty, if it was my business, I'd never let anyone dig through the scrap, too much risk of slicing yourself badly. Not that either of us got a cut, but still. They had dichro with coefficients of expansion compatible with all the most popular soda lime art glasses, but I could have spent a whole day there and never got past the 104. I would have loved to empty the scrap bins and organize them by color and size, but I'm OCD that way.
We didn't want to outstay our welcome though. The shop space is small and the two men were working around us, so we made a pass through the 104 bins and I left with a half lb. of scrap and some pre-fired rainbow hot stix and possibly some new inspiration.
I've been making glass beads for more than 5 years. I've melted all sorts of silver glass, worked with gold and palladium leaf, fine silver foil, wire and mesh, cubic zirconia and just about every blingy thing that you can jack up your glass with. I've tried to love dichro in the past but it did not love me back, not one little bit.
Dichro is a bitch to work with. It doesn't like being stuck in a torch flame. You can only direct the flame at the back plain glass side of a dichro strip, and lay down the dichro on the bead with the clear glass side out. But here's the thing, the dichro wants to fold in on itself and curl up around the edges and then what you get is ugly scum. You have to work slow and cool, two things I am famous for not doing.
But I decided to give it another shot, and this time I'm not giving up until I master it or burn through all the dichro I own, which is quite a lot.
I'm making progress.
I'm getting the dichro down on the bead and getting it encased all right. I'm just not sure where to take it from there. I've been trying design elements from some of my other bead series and I'm not quite happy with anything yet.
I am happy that I haven't thrown up my hands in despair this time.
We'll see what happens tomorrow.
And oh yeah, when and if I get clear-backed dichro down ... they also make it on black glass. It looks killer but it's gonna take some heat control to get it on the bead dichro side up and encase it before it burns off.
Good thing I like challenges.
"Spent my life looking for
Happiness like it was buried treasure
Somewhere behind the secret door
Surely there were riches beyond measure
I would take my sanity to task
Walk across broken glass to find it
And no mountain top was left unclimbed
Before I ever took the time to look inside me
These dreams of mine, these precious years
Oh, how they shine like diamonds and tears
The slow grace of time, the joy and the fears
Oh, how they shine like diamonds and tears."
(Gary Harrison, Matraca Berg)